Tuesday, September 29, 2015

If you're thinking about buying a gun, know what it means to be a responsible gun owner

When handling a gun, follow these fundamental rules:
  1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
    This is the primary rule of gun safety. A safe direction means that the gun is pointed so that even if it were to fire, it would not cause injury or damage. The key is to control where the muzzle or front end of the barrel is pointed at all times. Common sense dictates "in the safest direction."
  2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
    When holding a gun, rest your finger on the trigger guard or along the side of the gun. Until you are ready to fire, do not touch the trigger.
  3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
    Whenever you pick up a gun, immediately engage the safety device if possible; if the gun has a magazine, remove it before opening the action; pull back the slide to make sure it is clear of ammunition. If you do not know how to open the action or inspect the firearm, put the gun down carefully (pointing the gun in a safe direction with your finger off the trigger) and get help from someone who does.

When using or storing a gun, always follow these important rules:
  • Before handling your gun, learn how it operates. Know its basic parts, how to open and close the action safely, and how to remove any ammunition from the gun's chamber or magazine. Remember a gun's mechanical safety device is not entirely foolproof. 
  • Be sure the gun is safe to operate. If there is any question concerning a gun's ability to function properly, a knowledgeable gunsmith should be consulted.
  • Use only the correct ammunition for your gun. Only ammunition designed for a particular gun can be fired safely in that gun. Most guns have the ammunition type stamped on the barrel. Ammunition can be identified by information printed on the box or stamped on the cartridge. Do not shoot the gun unless you know you have the correct ammunition.
  • Wear eye and ear protection. Guns are loud and the noise can cause hearing damage. They can also emit debris and hot gas that could cause eye injury. For these reasons, shooting glasses and ear protection should be worn by both shooters (and spectators).
  • Never use alcohol, prescription drugs, or any other drugs before or while shooting.
    Alcohol, as well as any other substance likely to impair normal mental or physical bodily functions, must never be used before or while handling or shooting a gun.
  • Know your target and what is beyond your target.
    Be absolutely sure you have identified your target. Equally important, be aware of the area beyond your target. This means observing the area of fire before you shoot. Never fire in a direction where there are people or where there are other possibilities for mishap. Think before you shoot.
  • Clean your gun. Just like other tools, guns need regular maintenance to remain operable. Regular cleaning and proper storage are a part of the gun's general upkeep. Regular cleaning is important in order for your gun to operate correctly and safely. Taking proper care of it will also maintain its value and function. Your gun should be cleaned every time that it is used. A gun brought out of prolonged storage should also be cleaned before shooting. Accumulated moisture and dirt, or solidified grease and oil, can prevent the gun from operating properly.  
  • Before cleaning your gun, make sure it is unloaded. The gun's action should be open during the cleaning process. Be sure no ammunition is present in the cleaning area as well.
  • Store your gun so it is not accessible to unauthorized persons. Dozens of gun storage devices, as well as locking devices that attach directly to the gun, are available. However, mechanical locking devices, like the mechanical safeties built into guns, can fail and should not be used as a substitute for safe gun handling and the observance of all gun safety rules.
  • Be aware that certain types of guns and many shooting activities require additional safety precautions.
The NRA emphasizes responsible gun ownership and encourages all gun owners to find a NRA training course for essential instruction in the use of firearms. Find a course near you at NRAinstructors.org.

This edited article is from the National Rifle Association’s Blog
and NRA Guide to the Basics of Pistol Shooting.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A letter to the IEA President Cinda Klickna: What She Should Have Said about Illinois Students’ Recent PARCC Scores

Dr. Terri Reid-Schuster writes:

I was disgusted by my IEA President, Cinda Klickna’s, response regarding the low scores soon to be released in Illinois. I sent her the following:

Dear Cinda Klickna,

I was very disturbed to read your recent response to the news that Illinois students’ recent PARCC score test release. You characterized it as something that will improve as teachers get better at the standards and students get more experienced with the test. You could not be more wrong.

First, I am a career Illinois teacher with more than 20 years of experience. I have a doctorate in developmental literacy and currently work as a reading specialist in Oregon, IL. I have been active in my union and am currently serving as OEA president. I vote democrat and have always been a proud union member. However, now I am doubting whether IEA/NEA really has the best interests of children and teachers at heart. Your recent response has confirmed that.

Here is what you SHOULD have said:

The PARCC test is a capstone of corporate reform efforts to discredit hard-working teachers and school districts. It is a natural progression of developmentally inappropriate and unvalidated Common Core Standards that were written almost exclusively by test publishers whose intentions are to create a market for their “new and improved” curriculum materials, assessments, remedial programs and expensive consulting deals.

The test itself is written several years above the average student’s reading level; it is to be given on unfamiliar computer technology; it contains intentionally vague and poorly designed questions with opaque directions and is excessive in length. Additionally, cut scores were set outrageously high–ostensibly to align with NAEP proficiency levels and completely disregarding the fact that a rating of “proficient” on the NAEP means the equivalent of “A” level work in the classroom.

This is the new and impossible standard Illinois students have “failed” to reach. This is by design. It is absolutely the intention of companies like Pearson who stand to make billions off the misery the CCSS and PARCC are creating. Now politicians can “prove” teachers are lazy and incompetent and point to PARCC scores as evidence, then hand over public dollars to their business cronies and donors for charter schools. Your statement helps that process along by promoting the fantasy that it is possible to improve these test scores if only we numbskull public school teachers would just get up to speed on these dandy new standards.

Please, if you are going to take our money and purport to represent teachers collectively in Illinois, it is incumbent upon you to educate yourself about the reality of the monumental bamboozle that is corporate reform. I recommend Diane Ravitch’s book Reign of Error for starters, and her blog is a daily format for exposing the damaging effects of the move to privatize and profitize education. Todd Farley’s book Making the Grades is an insider’s expose of Pearson’s shoddy test design process and standardized test-grading mills.
Additionally, I am requesting that IEA not accept funding from Bill Gates or Pearson or any other entity that seeks to destroy public education. Doing so ensures our demise as a profession and will hasten the dismantling of democracy itself.

Democracy works best when we prepare students to be critical thinkers who are creative problem solvers and question authority. CCSS are preparing students to be obedient worker bees. Ask yourself why students at elite private schools aren’t being subjected to CCSS or PARCC testing? If these standards and tests are so essential to a great education, wealthy parents would be clamoring to have them for their own children. In fact, exactly the opposite is happening. CCSS and unfair rigged exams like the PARCC are for the unwashed, undeserving poor and middle class.

Cinda, you disappoint me. I am beginning to believe my dues to the IEA and NEA are not money well spent. Please educate yourself and become an advocate for children and teachers in this state. Call out corporate reform for what it is: a blatant profit-making scheme. Stop falling for the slick marketing. Talk to real teachers about their struggles under this brutal and demoralizing test-and-punish regime. STOP looking to “have a seat at the table.” Don’t collaborate and cooperate with those who will destroy the education profession.

If you need real teachers to talk to, I volunteer myself and my colleagues. Thank you for your attention in this matter. It is critical teachers have the informed support of our biggest professional organization.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Pope Francis’ Address to the U.S. Congress, September 24, 2015

“…All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. 

“A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. 

“The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.

“Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good...

“In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. 

“For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. 

“We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our ‘neighbors’ and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.

“Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. 

“To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ (Mt 7:12)…

“The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development. This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty… At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes…

“It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. ‘Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good’ (Laudato Si’, 129). 

“This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to ‘enter into dialogue with all people about our common home’ (ibid., 3). ‘We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all’ (ibid., 14)…

“Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade…

“A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to ‘dream’ of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton…”

For the complete address, click here.